Six weeks into the season isn’t the end of the line by any stretch, but after the San Francisco 49ers moved on from Brian Hoyer at quarterback and released linebacker NaVorro Bowman, it was even more obvious that they were going to the youth movement.
But those are also moved that you mostly would have expected for a team that knows it is set to some extent. Reuben Foster has played just 11 snaps, yet a lot of the discussion about things going forward when Bowman was released was centered on Foster and his potential.
Yet we have no idea if he’ll reach that potential. We have no idea if he’ll even be a decent NFL player, let alone a decent NFL rookie who missed five-plus games. Foster will likely return against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, and all eyes will be on him. Weak play wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would add to a lot of the question marks for a rebuilding team.
Then there’s Arik Armstead, a promising defensive lineman who is now out for what will probably wind up being the whole season. Tank Carradine, who finally seemed like he found his place with the 49ers, went down with an injury as well.
These could be seen as opportunities to get a longer look at someone like Aaron Lynch, who has a high ceiling but who apparently didn’t impress the coaching staff enough in practice to earn a ton of playing time. Now Lynch is dealing with injuries as well, and will miss Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
The 49ers have a slew of young, promising players and injuries are playing havoc on their development. How should we feel about Carradine or Armstead going forward? Both were high draft picks and both seemed ill-fitting on the 49ers a year ago, but better fits this year. The 49ers can’t really depend on either player going forward.
For most teams, losing a big-name player is a blow to a season where they hope to be competitive. What the 49ers want in 2017-18 is to build for the future, and that building is hitting some serious roadblocks with these injuries.